5 Simple and Effective Ways to Invest in Yourself
There are a lot of ways to invest your money.
From the stock market to government bonds to real estate, you can get a solid return on your investment and ensure that your future is secure. But one of the best ways to invest often goes overlooked: investing in yourself.
We often tend to think of spending money on ourselves as frivolous or wasteful, but sometimes spending a little money—or even just some time—to treat yourself right is the investment that pays off the most. Thankfully, there are some simple ways that valuing yourself can really pay off. Things like...
A New Look
Maybe the quickest way to see results from investing in yourself is to make an upgrade to your appearance. A new look can give you a boost of self-confidence and invite people around you—a boss, a customer, a love interest—to notice you as they haven't in the past.
There are any number of ways to achieve the desired effect. A new pair of glasses, for instance, can totally change the framing of your face, and if you decide you want to go back to your old look, you still have a new backup pair for emergencies.
Likewise, if you've been getting the same haircut for years, you don't need to worry that you'll end up regretting a new style. Let your hairdresser do something different (they probably know what they're doing...) and if you end up disliking the result, you can usually go back for a free fix-up.
Another low-commitment option is makeup. If you're the kind of person who wears makeup already, you can check out some tutorials for some new ideas. And if you don't wear makeup on a regular basis, you might be surprised what a difference something basic like a BB cream can make.
If you're willing to take your upgrade to the next level, you could try a whole new wardrobe. Or—if you're really up for a commitment—a gym membership and a new diet. It might seem strange to bother, since so many of us are stuck at home these days, but making a change to your appearance can help you feel refreshed and energized, and can pay off in a big way—even if it just gives you the confidence you need to crush your next Zoom meeting.
A New Bed
Speaking of refreshed and energized, as much as a new look can improve your mood, a dozen compliments about new clothes, new abs, or a new haircut can generally be spoiled by a single "you look tired." Worse still, chances are that you really are tired...
According to the CDC, one in three adults regularly operate from a sleep-deprived state. But it doesn't have to be that way. Rather than spending an extra $1000 a year on coffee and energy drinks to keep your eyes open—even if your thoughts are a jittery blur—you can spend less than that amount for a one-time upgrade to your bed and transform the sleep you're getting for years to come.
Proper sleep improves your health, your concentration, and your mood, and helps you tap into whatever your skill set is, so you can kick some ass in your work and your life. So if you're sick of mindlessly snacking, losing your keys, and snapping at loved ones and co-workers, maybe what you need is to make an investment in better sleep.
That might mean finding a mattress that works for you, but if you've already invested in one of the many miracles of "sleep technology" that are advertised everywhere (or if you are otherwise satisfied with your mattress), and still wake up exhausted, you might be overlooking your bed frame.
A creaky, shaky bed frame that freaks out every time you or your partner shifts in place can disrupt your sleep quality so that—even after eight hours of sleep—you wake up tired. Time for an upgrade. One good option, the so-called "perfect platform bed frame" from Thuma is sturdy and quiet, with a minimalist design, and details like Japanese joinery, cushioned slats, and a soft headboard to minimize noise and make your bed as comfortable as possible.
A New Outlook
Of course, it might not be your bed that's making life difficult. Sometimes life is just... difficult. But that doesn't mean you have to just tough it out, because—let's be honest—that really doesn't work. When people talk about sucking it up or toughing it out, what they really mean is suppressing your emotions so they can raise your blood pressure, crank your vices or bad habits up to 11, and congeal into a blend of self-loathing and bitterness that makes you just a joy to be around...
What works much better is talking about what stresses you out and what keeps you up at night. If you're lucky enough to have a few close friends you can trust with your most intimate thoughts, you might be all set in that respect, and you might also be living in the sitcom The Golden Girls—so congratulations all around.
For those of us living in a slightly less perfect reality, the existence of a professional set of ears that have to listen patiently to all our anxieties and complaints can be a godsend. Sometimes they can help put things in perspective, or give you some useful advice to help you work on your issues. Other times, they just shut up and listen while you empty your head of everything you've been bottling up.
In either case, the perspective and relief that therapy provides can make you happier, healthier, and more productive. It can make the world seem a little more manageable. If you have good health insurance it might not even cost you anything, but if not, there are services like Talkspace and BetterHelp that can connect you with a therapy professional for about the cost of one nice meal in a restaurant each week.
A New Skill
The average worker in America changes their employer around once every four years. Whether that means quitting, getting laid off, or finding a better job somewhere else, the fact is that you can't rest on your laurels. With the pace that things change, the job you have now might not even be a job 10 years from now, which means it's never too early to start planning for the future.
Fortunately, there are a ton of options for adding a new line or two to your resume. For a start, there are countless YouTube videos offering instruction in everything from home repair to photoshop. And if you want more structured, academic options, there are free courses in everything from chemistry to grammar through Khan Academy, free language instruction through Duolingo, and free lessons in programming languages through Codeacademy. And a service like Skillshare offers tons of resources for developing all kinds of skills at a low monthly rate.
You still need to invest some time and energy, but if you want to future-proof your resume and waltz into your next job interview with confidence, adding a new skill or two to your toolkit is the way to go.
A New Degree
Okay, you might not consider this one "simple" but it's too obvious not to at least consider it. Because all the chemistry courses Khan Academy has to offer won't quite qualify you to work in a pharmacy. If you really want to change your career path, sometimes there's no better option than actually going back to school.
That could mean going to a trade school for a certification in something like plumbing, or getting a bachelor or graduate degree in a field like computer science or nursing. The options are limitless, but if you choose wisely, the time and money of going back to school can totally transform your job prospects and really pay off.
That's especially true if you can find an affordable option for taking classes around your work schedule. While weekend classes and online courses might not be as glamorous as the ivy league, if it means avoiding hefty loans and earning a living while you learn.
Each degree you add makes a sizeable difference to your lifetime earning potential. So even if you thought you were done with school years ago you might find out that it's not too late to make a big investment in your future.
So if you find yourself wondering where you can make a smart investment that will pay off down the line, don't forget to look in the mirror.
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
The world of travel is not the same as it was two years ago. From the surge in "revenge travel" to the TikTok-inspired itineraries that make the most random destinations suddenly the most popular, there's so much about traveling that's out of your control.
What you can control — to some extent — is how much you pay for it.
According to CNBC, “Between dining out and taking trips, Americans are now spending an average of $765 more a month compared with last year when much of the country was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index … Young adults, in particular, are determined to make up for lost time. Millennials and Gen Z, who reported feeling the financial impact from the rise in reopenings and social gatherings, said they are shelling out $1,016 more a month, on average, than they did during the summer of 2020. MassMutual polled 1,000 U.S. adults from July 21 to 28.”
While some are okay with making up for lost time by gleefully spending all their money, not everyone has the desire to blow up their budgets on trips. Yet, the allure of travel still calls. Thus, the appeal of travel hacking.
Travel hacking has been around as long as credit card rewards have. But during the pandemic, travel hacking gurus found unprecedented fame on TikTok and Instagram. With time to learn about the points and miles community, suddenly people were planning for future travel using tips and tricks gleaned from experts sharing their knowledge on social media.
Though it might sound complex, anyone with a fair credit score can enter the travel hacking game. Here’s how:
What Is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is using reward points and miles from airlines, hotels, and credit cards towards free or heavily discounted travel. This ranges from opening a number of credit cards for the reward bonuses, optimizing your normal spending in order to max out your points per shopping category, and leveraging loyalty and status for awesome perks.
To a lot of people, the term “travel hacking” can sound shady. The “hacking” scares people off. Is it illegal? Is it a scam? Can you get punished for opening too many cards? Will you ruin your credit score? The answer to all of these concerns is no.
There’s no hidden trick to travel hacking. It’s not a game of risk or cheating, it’s a game of research and planning.
Travel Hacking 101
Most commonly, travel hacking hinges on the points you can get from certain travel credit cards. Credit cards aren’t merely a way to manage cash flow. Many offer rewards programs that give you points for each purpose. These points can then be repurposed to pay for part or all of a trip.
Different networks have different systems, but most can be transferred to a range of partners. Top credit cards are with Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One. Simply accumulate points on your credit card, then you have the option to transfer those points to airlines, hotels, and more — for free.
When learning travel hacking, The best tip is to go backward. Don’t just open popular cards with high bonuses. Identify where you want to go, then find out what actions to take. Which airlines travel there? Which cards’ points can be transferred to that airline? Where do you want to stay? Which hotels can you book with points? Once you’ve planned out your dream vacation, see how many points you need. Then strategize for the best way to nab them.
Choose which cards are right for you, then start stockpiling those points towards free travel.
One way to quickly amass points is to take advantage of sign-up bonuses. Many credit cards use sign-up bonuses to entice users. And if you play smart, just one or two sign-up bonuses can account for one entire flight cost. However, there’s one catch: you must meet a minimum spend requirement to qualify for the bonus.
The best way to approach this is to funnel all of your regular expenses through those credit cards to chip away at the minimum spending. Pro tip: open your card right before you need to make a lot of purchases. The holidays are a good time to open a card so the cost of festivities ends up working for you.
And remember: it’s key to always pay off your monthly credit card balance before the due date! The benefits of those points are useless if you go into debt to accrue them.
And here’s a hack for you newbie travel hackers out there — be sure to manage your money and keep track of how much you’re spending for that bonus with the MeetCleo app.
MeetCleo is the personal finance tool that’s actually fun to use. Taking control of your money while “earning” free travel using your credit cards? Finances have never been more fun.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!